Archive by Author | nielsuiterwaal

Team 31 Technology of the week: MOOCs, Duolingo and Khan Academy

Our technology of the week paper is about MOOCs or Massive open online Courses. These are websites

that provide online education through either apps or websites. Some well known MOOCs are Coursera,

EdX and FutureLearn. In our paper we focused on Duolingo and Khan Academy.

Duolingo is a MOOC that teaches languages. Currently it offers 40 language courses in 32 languages to

over a 100 million users. Duolingo uses gamified learning to teach you words and phrases in the language

of your choosing. The student can work through a lesson-tree and earn experience points and coins by

finishing up these lessons and doing their daily practice.

Duolingo’s business model is where it gets more interesting for a Business Information Management

student. Duolingo makes of use of crowd-sourced translations. How does this work? Duolingo will teach

you the language that you want and gives you practice articles you can translate. These practice articles

are provided by their partners (E.G. Buzzfeed and CNN) who pay to get translated articles. To make sure

all translations are actually correct, Duolingo makes use of the “Wisdom of Crowds” by using an

algorithm to aggregate all translations provided by the students. Furthermore, Duolingo is now

introducing language certificates for $20, currently these are only offered for English proficiency but it

will likely be available in more languages in the future.

To analyse both companies we made use of the SWOT analysis. The strengths of the business model are

that Duolingo’s revenues are not dependent on advertisement and thus visitor numbers do not cause a

lot of volatility in profits. Moreover, Duolingo fulfills needs of language learners but lets them work for

them without the students actually knowing they are doing work. In this way value gets created for the

students who learn a language, companies that get cheap translations and Duolingo who receives money

for providing value to these two parties. Lastly, Duolingo is diversifying its income streams by starting to

sell Language Certificates.

These certificates however, are not recognized by a lot of institutes yet and are therefore of limited

value. We see this as Duolingo’s main weakness in their businessmodel. More on the rest of the SWOT

analysis later.

Secondly, we took a look at Khan Academy which has a completely different way of doing business. Khan

Academy is a non-profit organization that relies mainly on donations to keep their operations running.

Khan Academy offers mostly university level courses in mathematics, economics and STEM. These

courses are also offered in a gamified way. You can earn points to buy upgrades and you can also level

up your avatar like a Pokémon.

Khan Academy’s main strength is that it is highly esteemed among its users and contributors. As

donations is their main source of income it is very important that public relations are well maintained.

Khan Academy has acquired relations that donate regularly, the most noteworthy of their relations is the

Bill & Melinda Gates foundation and Carlos Slim Foundation who of which both owners compete for

being the richest person on earth every year.

However, relying on donations for you existence may not be a sustainable way to function. If one of the

big contributors withdraws from donating regularly, you lose a lot of income that may not be easily

recovered. We identified this as the main weakness of Khan Academy.

Furthermore we identified opportunities and threats that were quite similar for both companies as they

operate in the same industry. Opportunities mainly involved increased internet access in developing

countries. This will broaden the user base of both Duolingo and Khan Academy. This may result in more

revenues for Duolingo and more donations for Khan.

Threats were mostly inherent to information goods. Information goods are easy to copy and therefore

MOOCs in general are easily attacked by substitutes. However, we think that due to network

externalities both Duolingo and Khan Academy are able to mitigate these risks.

In conclusion, we see that even though Duolingo and Khan Academy operate in similar business

environments and offer roughly the same products, they deploy completely different business models

and seem to be very successful in doing so.

Team 31:

Marianne Glas, 437320

Eelke van der Horst, 356523

Minke Huizenga, 333954

Niels Uiterwaal, 437200

Marjolein Volkers, 344064

Bridging the everyday gaps of solar energy?

With the ice melting, energy prices rising and less healthy air to breath the world is looking for new ways to feed our never ending hunger for energy: renewable energy.

In the United States 39%(1) of the energy comes from coal plants. These coal plants produce huge amounts of energy and transfer the generated energy via the grid to households and other industries. The same principle holds for some renewable energy sources. For example windmill parks work via the same principle, energy gets generated in a big windmill park at sea and all the energy goes one way to the places where it is used.

However, what we currently see is that the generation of renewable energy is getting closer and closer to the actual user and therefore often also on a smaller scale. On one hand Solar can be generated in farms such as the Topaz Solar Farm located in California, which is currently one of the biggest in the world.  On the other hand more and more individual households are putting solar panels on their roof to provide themselves with energy.

Since energy production is starting to get decentralized there is need for a smart grid. With the private production of energy through solar panels one can imagine that during the day a peak amount of energy is produced and transferred to the grid whereas at night when energy consumption is relatively high and local production is low the demand for energy is extra high.  This increases the strain on the traditional grid and therefore measurements need to be taken, for the consumer to avoid peak prices and for distribution network operators to avoid increasing maintenance costs.

Enter Tesla, at the end of April 2015 the company released the so called Power wall which is basically a battery pack for your house. The Power wall  comes in 7Kwh and 10Kwh, to give you an idea: a fridge uses about 1.6Kwh per day and laptop 0.05kwh per hour (2). An industrial version called the Power Pack  is also available, this will allow factories and even small villages to store energy . One could say that the Power wall will solve or at least help solving the problem of the overused grid by saving extra energy for later use at the source where it has been generated.

So will this actually transform the way we consume energy or is it just a silicon valley dream? The Power wall  comes at a price of 3500 $ for the 10Kwh version. This excludes installation costs and of course the cost of solar panels. Forbes calculated that you will pay around 15cts per kwh (3)  when you use the Power Wall solution whereas the U.S. Energy information administration (4) gives an average price for most regions way below that price. For example in West South Central which includes Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas you pay 11.19 per Kwh.

So the technology might give some future perspective on how to solve our energy problem but at this point it is still debatable whether or not these power packs will have a big influence on your electricity bill.





The dark side of Personalized Search

One of the perks of the internet 2.0 is that we can benefit from heavily personalized internet use. Companies can tailor their products and advertising to target potential customers in a much better than before and the consumers get tailored search results, ads and product recommendations.

This blog post will focus on personalized Search.  Speretta and Gauch (2005) defined Personalized Search as search engines that give search results based on user profiles, description of user interest and cookies. In this way equal search queries may give different search results depending on which user is searching.

On first sight, this seems like an amazing feature, your search engine cuts through billions of pieces of information to get you exactly what you are looking for.

But is always getting what you are looking for not also a danger in itself? Are the things we want also the things we need? In a less serious case you might be looking for new music in a different genre then you normally listen to but your Search Engine hides these new artists and songs because it does not fit your profile.  In a more serious case, for example, elections are coming up and you are looking for a suitable candidate to pick on the topic of Renewable energy. For the sake of the argument, you have a neutral view on this, in previous elections you have voted  right wing which often have relatively conservative energy policies. So when researching the topic of Renewable energy you might get a very biased view as your profile seen as someone who is not pro-renewable energy.

Eli Pariser has coined this with the term ‘’Filter Bubble’’. He argues in his book ‘’Filter Bubble’’ (2012) that this Bubble we live in will hamper society’s progress due to people being uninformed or ignorant to current issues in the world. It may also cause the “truth” to be hidden for some people.

One can argue that personalized search defeats the purpose of the internet. The internet gives you the possibility to connect with the world and get to know things on a whole new level but the Filter Bubble might hamper this. On the other hand, in the pre-internet era people were only exposed to their own paradigms but during this time society still progressed significantly.

What do you think? Are Personalized Search results a blessing or a curse?





Speretta, M.; Gauch, S., “Personalized search based on user search histories,” in Web Intelligence, 2005. Proceedings. The 2005 IEEE/WIC/ACM International Conference on , vol., no., pp.622-628, 19-22 Sept. 2005

Pariser, E. (2012) Filter Bubble. London, United Kingdom. Penguin Books.